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A Creative Mixologist Who Grows Her Own Garnishes


Elyssa Goodman | February 21, 2018
Stacie Grissom has built an impressive online following by telling stories with cocktails garnished from her own rooftop garden.

“Every time I make a persimmon cocktail, I tell a story about Indiana,” says Stacie Grissom, the cocktail blogger behind the successful site and Instagram Garden Cocktails. She brushes a curly dirty-blonde tendril from her eyes, away from her tortoiseshell glasses and behind a chandelier earring, as she nestles into her vintage smoky blue velvet couch.

Grissom was born and raised in the rural town of Franklin, Indiana, 20 miles south of Indianapolis, which happens to be a place where persimmons grow best, and the bright, sweet, orange fruit always reminds her of home. And Grissom, who is trained as a writer and is currently the director of content for BarkBox, takes every opportunity to tell a story, especially if it’s with a cocktail. Sometimes her cocktail stories are about Indiana; other times they’re about the seasons: She recently made a cocktail flavored with cherry, chocolate, and walnut in time for Valentine’s Day, and January was about starting fresh, with rejuvenating natural flavors like beet and carrot. Other times her cocktails are about absurd contrasts, geographical locations, or local ingredients. “The little persimmons mean a lot to me because it is such a unique thing that you can only get in Indiana, so that’s a different kind of story,” she says.

Grissom grew up on her family’s 10 acres of land, cultivating hobbies like DIY home décor and jewelry making, journeys she recorded on another blog, Stars for Streetlights. When she came to New York six years ago, her amount of space decreased, so her hobbies adapted. Three years ago, moving into her new apartment with her husband, she started an urban garden because it was the first time she’d had any outdoor space in the city. And two years ago, she started her Instagram, combining the fruits (and herbs and vegetables) of the garden with her longtime love of libations. Grissom has built a significant audience for Garden Cocktails, with more than 27k followers as of this writing. “Instagram [became] where I talk about cocktails and we can kind of inspire each other to push ourselves and be more creative,” Grissom says. “I think you’re always more creative when you have an audience. It just so happened that the cocktail culture on Instagram was just starting to take off.” Every post Grissom makes shares something personal about her cocktail-making process or what inspired the drink, setting a little scene in which viewers can perhaps imagine themselves, with natural light and no filters. Her Instagram has been named one to follow by publications like Saveur, Supercall, and the Spirits Business.

Grissom built her DIY cocktail life in a cozy apartment in New York’s Yorkville neighborhood. Far from the maddening crowds of Midtown and just far enough from a train to deter tourists, Yorkville is mostly quiet and residential, save for a few up-and-coming restaurants and bars. Grissom’s apartment is a flurry of green and peach and multicolored woods; vintage furniture, artwork, records, and glassware; and even a seafoam green door resting artistically in the hallway. Her dog, Persimmon (or Pimmpup, as she’s occasionally known), yelps nearby.

Grissom has what she calls a “one-butt” kitchen: a petite alcove just big enough for a refrigerator, cabinets, and some counter space. She’s essentially created an extension to it with a library of cookbooks and cocktail books, a seafoam green, vintage-style refrigerator (it matches the door in the hallway), and, of course, her bar. Housed under a blonde wooden table in front of which slides a miniature curtain, it’s filled with all manner of base spirits and liqueurs and cocktail paraphernalia.

For Per La Mente, Grissom makes a Fernet-Branca cocktail inspired by winter’s sweet, tender, seedless little satsuma oranges. “I think there’s a special satisfaction when you are eating and drinking something that is best at the time that you’re eating it,” she says. “We can get oranges all year round, but we can only get this kind of orange now.” The juice of the tiny citrus highlights her cocktail and provides a sugary texture that precludes the need for any additional sweetener, like simple syrup. “They’re the cutest oranges in the grocery, partly because they come with these little green stems that make really nice garnishes,” Grissom says with a smile. “I wanted to keep the ingredients really simple, because Fernet-Branca has so many ingredients in it. So I chose an orange liqueur, satsuma juice, the Fernet-Branca, and some gin. A simple cocktail for a very robust liqueur.” To garnish and serve, she adds the satsuma leaves and a sprig of thyme directly from her winter garden.

“There’s this saying that January and February are a gardener’s time to dream,” Grissom says. In the winter, she keeps the part of the garden that can grow indoors, like the thyme as well as peppery nasturtiums, which right now have a rare winter bloom, along with oregano and hibiscus. Her pots and planters remain outside on the balcony, waiting for spring, when she’ll plant more edible flowers and cherry tomatoes.

In the colder months, Grissom finds herself exploring grocery stores a lot more. What’s nice about New York, she says, is that there’s a wealth of different, unusual flavors to choose from, like prickly pear and those rare citrus fruits, and pretty much any spirit you could want at liquor stores. She finds the diversity of product inspiring, which was not exactly her experience in Indiana. “Two Christmases ago, I was trying to buy my dad a bottle of [Italian bitters] and I had to drive to four different liquor stores to find it. I think that’s a ketchup of cocktail-making here!” she says with a laugh.

Even so, Grissom is interested in one day expanding her cocktail repertoire into a book that includes drinks that can be made with the simplest base spirits and ingredients one can find at a grocery store. When Grissom first moved to New York, she says, she was so broke and wanted to go out for cocktails, but she began making them on her own with easy-to-purchase ingredients because that was more accessible to her. She’d like others to have the same opportunity. “I think that anybody can [make cocktails], and you don’t always have to pay $18 for a drink,” she says. “You can make a beet negroni at home, you just need a couple of ingredients.”

Grissom began to make up her own recipes after reading a book called The Flavor Bible, which describes all the ways different flavors pair together. For example, pear goes with cinnamon, which seems obvious, but did you know it also goes well with fennel? After learning about pairings like these, Grissom began to work out her own. “Showing the flexibility of ingredients has been one of the things I’ve been proud of,” she says. For example, she’s learned that if you keep the ingredients simple, you can often swap out the base spirits and still have an amazing cocktail. She tried this recently with a pomegranate, lemon, pink peppercorn drink that she first made with rum, and later discovered it also worked really well with both vodka and gin. Grissom challenges herself to come up with new recipes regularly and has started to send out monthly newsletters with five new cocktail creations to keep herself on her toes. She’s gotten to a point where she hardly repeats a cocktail recipe now when preparing a drink for herself.

“For a cocktail to work for me, there needs to be a really surprising ingredient, whether it’s a new thing that I’ve never tried or a pairing that’s really clever,” she says. But as much fun as she has making cocktails, the best part comes at the end, once she’s measured out the spirits, shaken just the right amount, and poured herself something truly unique. “Drinking the cocktail is always the most fun,” she says.

Stacie’s Tips and Tricks for Great Cocktail Instagrams:

DO take a technically good photo. Grissom uses a DSLR instead of her phone for the best quality possible, and she prefers natural light.

DON’T use filters. “I think people are kind of tired of all of the filters, so I always try to use a natural photo,” she says.

DO create a scene. “I always try to tell a story, whether with the garnish or the glassware or the arrangement of the objects in the photo.”

DO share something of yourself with each post. “When I stumble on a new cocktail account, if the person doesn’t have a point of view or a little anecdote, then it’s not as interesting. If they just have a recipe, there’s no story. Why should I follow them versus another one of the hundreds of thousands of accounts that share recipes? You need to add a little bit of yourself.”

The Bright Side

1/2 part Fernet-Branca

1/2 part lemon juice

1/2 part orange liqueur

1/2 part satsuma juice

2 parts gin

Shake and serve over ice. Garnish with satsuma slice and leaf.

To hear more from Stacie and others about the impact of social media on their life and work, check out Dining in the Age of Instagram.

For more creative people, join the Fernet-Branca Family


Elyssa Goodman is a writer and photographer based in New York. Her work has appeared in Vogue, Vanity Fair, Vice, and many others. Find her at


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